T Nation

Periodization For Multiple Athletic Events


I understand single-sport periodization on at least a basic level. I also understand the concept of how trying to set too many goals simultaneously may end up hindering each of them. That said, when training for multiple aspects (like multi-sport athletes in the offseason) what are your experiences?

Using Light, Medium, Heavy workloads, I have three thoughts.

A: Opposite workloads. When in a Heavy strength phase, be in a Light Speed or Conditioning phase, and vice versa. Medium phases overlap.

B: Matching workloads. Heavy in one, Heavy in the other. Light in one, Light in the other.

C: Rolling waves. MLH in one while HML in the other.

As I see it, the advantages of A from above is that you’re never going too intense. The disadvantage is that yo’ my don’t truly have Light phases. With B, it is on the extremes, while C is a mix.

I put this in Beginners because I couldn’t decide a better forum for it. I hope it makes sense.


I’m not totally clear on the situation. A “multi-sport athlete in the offseason” meaning there are no sports being played currently, but “inseason” there will be multiple sports?

Or an offseason for one sport overlaps as being simultaneously in-season for another sport?

If it’s the second, that’s much tricker. If it’s the first, it’s much more simple. Offseason is for building size and strength. Those traits are universal for athletes and playing one or five sports shouldn’t major since you’re working on “big picture” stuff.

MLH stuff can be applied in several ways, similar to ones you wrote. Bill Starr literally wrote the book on that approach. A quick Google should bring up his articles.


Depends on the sport. Decathlon athletes train differently then heptatlon athletes.


Thanks for the replies and sifting through my confusing question. I am speaking of the trickier situation with overlapping seasons, effectively giving them a month-long off-season for the entire year, which should be used mostly for recovery.

Your answers helped me think it out. Back to common sense for me! Thank you.


If I remember rightly, Dan John recommends that 80% of training time for athletes be practice in their sport of choice, runners run, throwers throw, etc.

The remaining 20% should be focused on a basic strength program to support that, so think Easy Strength or lower volume 5/3/1 variations rather than high rep squats or GVT. Something that’s easy to recover from, ie. low volume per workout.


Yeah basically this.

Some good tips in this thread here also…


Bah, yeah that’d suck. If they’re almost-always in-season for something, then you’re almost-always doing in-season training which is along the lines of what Dagill John wrote. Primarily sports practice (which should at least maintain conditioning across all sports, little to no additional cardio or plyo work) and lifting that’s lower volume and “non-draining”/easy to recover.

The particular details would vary a bit based on the specific sports and the individual athletes’ needs, but the main principles would be the same.


Thanks guys. This was helpful.

I won’t go into the specifics, because there are several different sports combos involved, but I’ll stick with the basics. Most of them are club athletes and will get plenty of conditioning. We’ll just work on building up strength and in a couple cases, foot speed.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I have a collection of athletes that don’t want to specialize in their teens, but man, the expectations they have from club coaches and parents has me biting my tongue.


I’m sure this was meant to be a dig, but I’ll take that any day


?? Totally not meant as a dig, my man. Intended as a legit nod because you’ve been crushing it with advice, as usual.


I personally like scenarios A and C. B just has too much capacity for overreach.

Typically if nutrition (both amounts and timing) is solid then most trainees don’t typically have problems without a “true” light phase. Fatigue and overreach tend to be specific to the demands imposed though of course there is a systemic component. In other words, fatigue from speed phases does not tend to affect strength work as much–although this is highly dependent on what makes up your speed phase. Agility and position movement drills? Fine. 400m sprints in speed phases for track? Maaaaaybe more problematic.

Also the more sensibly planned variety one is exposed to the more one tends to stay fresh in other areas. This has a limit of course (thinking extremely elite athletes or overworked populations), but one of the aspects to all this is that speed and strength feed each other, and conditioning helps your resilience to training loads in general.


Well I semi resurrected this thread I suppose and also didn’t see the clarification when I posted my response, but yeah I would agree with Colucci and Dan John/dagill.

Particularly in the development phase in high school and such I think the most important aspects are general strength, and movement quality. Conditioning is usually covered in a general sense with so much of the year spent in-season. Most high school and club athletes I know spend so much time in the speed/explosive/sport specific part of the training spectrum that they would really do well to just do basic strength and core work with an emphasis on movement pattern quality and shoring up stabilizing groups (t-spine, glute medius/hips, rotator cuff and scap control, etc). I believe Eric Cressey had a video about this a little while back.

Athletes spending tons of time in the strength zone would obviously benefit from the opposite consideration.


Well said.

Each athlete has a plan now and they all focus on general strength, squats, cleans, deadlift variations, push-ups, and pull-ups. Relatively light intensity, very low volume. No conditioning. We’re using periodization, but at low percentages.

Thanks guys.